A week of it – activities at the Snow Farm, Cardrona Valley, Central Otago

July 24, 2011

Over the years I’ve posted often about my predilection for cross country skiing at the Snow Farm, so this week I thought I’d share more of the flavour of the place. It’s rather unique for New Zealand, as it incorporates not only skiing, but vehicle testing and a whole lot of other things.

My preferred activity is to ski out to the area boundary alone on dusk. This is a privilege I appreciate very much, and comes about due to a long friendship with the owners. This view is looking north towards Lake Hawea. Sometimes it’s possible to see Mt Cook from here…
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Bob Lee hut on the skyline…
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On my return I often meet JP on the trail. He lives in a tent all season near Meadow Hut, and often works at Biathlon coaching at the Snow Farm or ski patrolling at the nearby by downhill terrain park area [yet another aspect of the facilities], so being an athlete in training he runs up to the Snow Farm from that area at a slightly lower altitude, and then skis mostly downhill on cross country skis to his little home…
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While most people know the Snow Farm as a facility for recreation on the snow, the real business in the area is the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds. While it’s summer in the north cars, tires, car parts, snow blowers etc. are tested at 12 large building facilities all scattered around a very large area and largely hidden from the public.

When it’s all boiled down to it machines like this grader on the right, or the groomer below are what keeps the life blood of the area flowing, night and day…
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But this is more the scene I experience in the dark. Traveling on light skis on good snow and trails at this 1500 mt altitude is amazing. Not just how the stars twinkle, but the enormity of the space that they sit in…
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During daylight hours this is more the scene the public knows…
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And if the wind if good, then not far from the car-park this is a preferred activity for sometimes up to a doz. brave souls…
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In another area or zone there are skidoo tours. Here is a group of several setting off. The two helicopters in the back ground are dropping off a wedding party, but they are also often seen parked up here, assisting with the filming of commercials or movies…
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A wedding party heading away from the helicopters to go dog sledding…
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Meanwhile the latest cars to be tested cruise by, all upholstered so people like me can’t take photos that are of interest to auto magazine editors…
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The bride is encased in furs for her sled tour – Siberian huskies are used predominately…
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The sledder or musher harnesses the team…
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The groom heads off following…
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Meanwhile the world’s top athletes train and race both classic and skate nordic skiing…
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And lastly today, I did yet another tour with my good friend Vicky. We knew a severe weather system was coming, but decided to sneak in a trip to Meadow Hut. It caught us on the return.

From the moment we left we encountered Antarctica like temps. and an absolutely cutting and ruthless southerly wind. It was interesting to observe myself and feel the old apprehension again that arises on meeting such bluntness, then to remember [and practice] that the first prerequisite of being safe in such conditions is to be calm of mind!

Maybe minus 15 oC and 30-40 knots – makes for an extreme wind chill factor. Camping was not an option as we groped our way back…
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It’s important to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. In these conditions icicles were forming in the small hairs that populate the entrance to both my nostrils, and I had to safeguard against frost-nip [mild frost bite] to the flesh on my cheeks below the glasses, but the beard really does help elsewhere…
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And this smily lady was on her way back to the Lodge – her job to clean the two huts in the area ready for the next groups – often from schools. She stopped on her skidoo to check we were OK, so out with the camera! …
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So it’s a pretty interesting place. I sometimes liken it to Disney Land, but every winter at some point I’m reminded these are real mountains, and it’s a total privilege to have access to them on my doorstep, and to be able to travel lightly amongst them with great people!

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4 Responses to A week of it – activities at the Snow Farm, Cardrona Valley, Central Otago

  1. Georgie Tolmay on July 26, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Love the new site D! And those pics are scrummy! Hugs. G

    • Donald Lousley on July 26, 2011 at 8:04 pm

      Hi G

      Good to hear you’re settled and out there cruising blog-ville.

      Will be in touch

      Hugs

      D

  2. Thomo on August 10, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Hey Don – who’s JP who lives up there in a tent – amazing! Love the evening shots

    Cheers

    • Donald Lousley on August 10, 2011 at 8:51 pm

      Thanks Thomo. I’m managing a good few evenings of late. Have also bought slightly heavier skis so I can handle the spring conditions more easily and safely, as it can get quite icy after the sun departs.

      I used “JP” as I’m not always sure someone would want their name on the Internet, unless I asked of course. Given that modern alpine camping gear can make life quite comfortable it made sense to me, especially if you’re in training. He’s not working in the area so much this winter though, and is CHC based, so you won’t see the tent should you fly over.

      It gets pretty cold down there too – cold air draining etc. We’ve both experienced minus 22 at various times some years.

      Cheers

      Donald

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